What is the real purpose of mock examinations?
As we enter this period of mock examinations for the upper sixth and Year 11 I am often asked the purpose of these tests.
Are they designed to shock students into realising how much work they need to do to attain the grades that reflect their ability best? Are they to give a rehearsal for the real thing – a chance to get the timing right? Are they an opportunity to find out what a student does know and what they don’t? They are a mixture of all of these and different for each pupil.
I am also asked about scheduling them just after the Christmas holidays. Should the examinations be in November or should they be later in the spring term nearer the actual examinations when most of the syllabus has been covered? PHS chooses to hold them straight after the
festive season because the break does give students an opportunity to prepare. It seems to be the right timing in terms of being able to still have space to put in more effort if required.
Carol Dweck writing as long ago as 1998 identified the impact of praise. With regard to the mock examinations feedback is important and it must reflect what the student needs to do to improve their result. Praising students’ intelligence and/or effort may have a negative impact and not lead to an improvement overall in the next set of assessments. Pupils will have worked hard but if we really want to help them progress then teachers’ feedback needs to convey clearly what action a pupil needs to put in place to better their chances of the best grade possible.